Nourishing Communities: Collaborative Efforts to Address Food Insecurity

October 25, 2023

Step inside Boynton Health's Nutritious U Food Pantry and learn about its significant impact in tackling food insecurity. See how they're strengthening the University community through partnerships, inclusivity, and a shared passion for healthy food for all.

Imagine a place buzzing with positive energy, where the collective aim is that University of Minnesota students who struggle to get enough to eat have access to fresh and healthy food. This is the essence of Nutritious U Food Pantry at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, a program run by Boynton Health. Since its inception in 2017, the pantry has been a beacon of hope, combating food insecurity among students by providing accessible, fresh, and nutritious food.

Nutritious U’s web of community partnerships enhances its impact in addressing student food insecurity. They've woven relationships with local farms, food suppliers, student groups, and community organizations. A prime example is their collaboration with the Student Organic Farm on the St. Paul campus, which sells fresh, organic produce to Nutritious U at an affordable price. Meanwhile, Einstein Bagels and a local Cub store regularly contribute bakery items, and local businesses like Penzey’s Spices have previously donated their products. 

Nutritious U Pantry sign

The brilliance of these partnerships lies not just in the plentiful supply of food but in the richness and variety they bring. Students have access to diverse and nutritious options that cater to their preferences. The benefits extend beyond the pantry. These partnerships reinforce local businesses, create sustainable food sources, and make healthy eating more accessible. 

The sourcing process ensures that a variety of food make it to pantry shelves, including staples and fresh produce. Whether from the Student Organic Farm, Costco, food banks like The Food Group, or Cub Bakery, each food item is carefully selected by the Nutritious U team.

Student organizations and community initiatives are crucial in the pantry's operations. Volunteers from across the university contribute over 100 hours per month to the program while Lead Volunteers train newcomers, lead pantry events, and provide innovative ideas to improve the pantry experience. Students who visit the pantry will also learn about other food resources on and off campus to help them find the right resources. Over the years, these collaborative efforts have ignited new initiatives and programs that have greatly enriched the community. The Thrive Student Basic Needs Coalition, founded in 2018, is one such group identifying and implementing strategies to tackle basic needs insecurity on campus. In 2022, the Undergraduate Student Government and Boynton staff convened the Basic Needs Strategic Planning Committee, which is now starting to implement its recommendations. 

The Nutritious U Food Pantry prioritizes inclusivity and accessibility. Its location on the first floor of the Coffman Student Union makes it easily accessible. The pantry caters to specific dietary needs and cultural preferences, offering a range of options to accommodate its visitors. 

Food in crates

There are countless heartwarming stories from the pantry. One such tale is of a mother of five who could take home meals and snacks for her family. Another, of medical students who found respite in the pantry, enabling them to meal prep for the week and save money while learning to make a difference. 

Volunteering opportunities abound for anyone wishing to support the Nutritious U Food Pantry. Financial contributions are equally welcome and appreciated by those unable to volunteer time.

The pantry is destined for growth with a bright future ahead. Increased student visits have sparked plans for expansion, partnerships, and the inclusion of a wider variety of options. Their exciting upcoming collaboration with Health Promotion at Boynton will provide a second safer sex supply pick-up site at the pantry.

Nutritious U Food Pantry is a testament to collective action's power in combating food insecurity. The key takeaway is simple: When we pool our resources and work together, we create a more welcoming community and enhance access to healthy food for those who need it most.

Visit us in room 103A at Coffman Memorial Union this semester – we’re right behind the Goldy statue. Remaining dates this semester include November 14-15, 28-29th, and December 12-13th. 

Written by: Krishna Mayurkumar Ravat

Join me for the day as a gluten-free gopher navigating the highs and lows of having dietary restrictions in college. 

We get it -- grocery shopping is hard. Luckily, the Boynton Health Nutrition Clinic is here to save the day, your wallet, and your fridge.